OCEANSIDE — It was a packed house as residents filled the City Council chambers for the final Medical Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee public hearing. Speakers took to the podium for two minutes each to share their views in a session that lasted more than an hour.
Most speakers at the Sept. 28 meeting were in strong support of allowing medical marijuana cultivation, testing, distribution and storefront sales in the city.
Among supporters were city farmers who said marijuana cultivation would allow their farms to survive the high costs of labor, water and insurance.
A number of speakers said they had been to previous committee meetings. Some turned to face the audience and ask for community support for committee findings.
Others echoed support and said legal medical and recreational marijuana are “here to stay,” and the city needs to take a proactive approach and draft its own regulations or be left to abide by state laws.
One speaker summed it up as “we all have to work together to make this social experiment work.”
Many thanked the committee for its six months of research and public meetings.
Some speakers became emotional as they shared health challenges faced by themselves or loved ones that were helped with medical marijuana. Veterans were outspoken in their support.
The meeting also began on an emotional note with a video clip of a father sharing how marijuana has helped his young son who suffers from seizures.
A common thread in the heart-wrenching stories was a dramatic decrease in the number of needed prescription pills once medical marijuana was added to health regimens.
The committee did not present a summary of findings at the public hearing. Committee members said the meeting was to gather and record community input.
Committee findings will be shared with City Council in November, along with recommendations.
An overview of committee work shared that recommendations will address what is allowed and the look and feel of marijuana businesses. Conditional use permits will be recommended to give the city more control.
To address public safety, the state-mandated Track and Trace Program will be used to account for the chain of business and consumer transactions involved in each marijuana plant cultivation, sale and purchase. The system ensures a quick way to identify consumers who may have received a bad batch of marijuana.
There were several objections to the state monitoring system that some said invades consumers’ privacy.
It was also mentioned that signature gathering for a city ballot initiative on marijuana businesses was recently started. No one representing the petition spoke. Several people said efforts are being supported by Councilwoman Esther Sanchez, who was not present to confirm her involvement.
Prior to the meeting Chuck Lowery, city deputy mayor and committee chair, shared his objections to a proposed ballot initiative.
“The ad-hoc committee spent six months to gather input from the community about what it wanted,” Lowery said. “The initiative people have spent five minutes writing the language and will spend six months trying to convince the community to sign their petitions. It’s not what is best for Oceanside.”
The ad hoc committee will make zoning and ordinance recommendations, which can be amended by City Council. The focus will be on the amount and locations of businesses.
Following the meeting Don Greene, city council aide for Lowery, said committee recommendations will include limiting marijuana business locations to east of Interstate 5 to ensure that operations are not near allowed downtown breweries.
Other zoning restrictions the committee plans to recommend are to keep marijuana businesses away from sensitive uses like schools, parks and churches as well as gang injunction areas.
A ballot measure would create a more permanent city law that would need to go to a vote of the people for change.